Welcome to this week’s bumper edition of the PA’s PA in a week of many firsts for our new Prime Minister: her first Prime Minister’s Questions, her first meeting with the German Chancellor and her first meeting with the French President. The Parliamentary Labour Party finally decided on a candidate to challenge Jeremy Corbyn with Angela Eagle stepping aside in favour of the relatively unknown Owen Smith – could Labour once again turn to a South Walian to save itself from its hard left?
In this edition:
The reshuffle continued (and concluded) this week with announcements of the junior ministerial appointments, following those of the cabinet last week. Following on the heels of his Secretary of State, long standing Culture Minister Ed Vaizey returns to the backbenches having served in that post for 2255 days – making him the longest serving arts minister ever. Other appointments and moves of interest to publishing include:
Nick Gibb – Minister of State for Schools (Department for Education)
Jo Johnson – Minister of State for Universities and Science (joint post with DfE and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
Baroness Neville-Rolfe (BEIS) – promoted to Minister of State (BEIS) although though she is no longer joint minister with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. We are still waiting confirmation that IP remains in her portfolio.
Matt Hancock – Minster of State for Digital and Culture (DCMS)
Rob Wilson – Minister for Civil Society and Libraries (DCMS)
Robert Halfon – Minister of State for Apprentice and Skills (BEIS)
Nicola Blackwood has been made junior Minister in Department of Health meaning she’ll no longer be chair of the Science and Tech Select Committee. She did tweet that she’ll keep fighting for science and innovation.
Jesse Norman has been made a junior Minister BEIS meaning he will no longer be chairing the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. As an author and Director of the Hay Festival it is hoped he will remain a strong supporter of the publishing industry.
Letters of welcome have been sent to these and their respective secretaries of state as well as David Davis and Liam Fox in their roles as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and Secretary of State for International Trade respectively. Meetings have been requested with them and / or a member of their team.
A full list of the new government can be found here. For further information on any of these politicians and their likely views on our issues please contact Chloe Smith at The PA.
Update on Brexit
Confirmation has been given on what was probably the worst kept secret of the post-Brexit political world – the UK will relinquish its turn as rotating president of the European Council. Britain was due to take the Presidency in the second half of 2017 but the Prime Minister has suggested that we should relinquish this, noting that the country will be prioritising the negotiations to leave the European Union. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk welcomed Mrs May’s swift decision on this issue which would allow the council to put alternative arrangements in place.
Science and Brexit
The academic and scientific community continues to express its concern over Brexit. Seven academies - the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, the Learned Society of Wales, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Irish Academy - have issued a joint statement on research and innovation after the EU Referendum, looking at the implications of the result across four areas: People; Collaboration; Resources; and Regulation. The letter comments how the current uncertainty is having immediate implications and raises many questions, not least over funding. It notes how some UK research groups and small businesses are already losing funding and calls for "urgent discussions" on how the government will address any funding gap in both the short and medium term.
Roundtable with IP Minister
The PA, with other members of the Alliance for IP, attended a roundtable with Baroness Neville-Rolfe to discuss copyright and enforcement issues. The Minister stressed that post-referendum it is business as usual - we are still in Europe and the Government is still attending Council and working group meetings. She also stressed that the UK brings the need for a solid evidence base as well as common sense to many of the issues around the Digital Single Market and that she has been spending time with Commissioner Oettinger discussing current policy areas. Confirmation was also given that the Commission’s copyright reform proposals are still due on 21 September and that an enforcement discussion document is expected by the end of July. While there has been no confirmation as yet on whether IP remains within Baroness Neville-Rolfe’s ministerial responsibility, the Minister herself is, thankfully, certainly acting as though it does.
The new Education Secretary, Justine Greening, gave her first interview following her appointment to Andrew Marr on Sunday. The ‘headline’ from the interview was that the Secretary of State is “open minded” about new grammar schools, saying that there could be room for selection within the new landscape of education. However, she did qualify this by saying that if selective state education were to be expanded, it might not necessarily be through an "old-fashioned" conception of the grammar school.
The Public Bill Committee has issued a call for written evidence on the Higher Education Bill which is currently passing through Parliament. This is an opportunity to suggest amends to the Bill and The PA will be discussing it will its members. Deadline for evidence to the Committee is 5pm Tuesday 18th October which is when the Bill’s Committee Stage will end.
Amanda Spielman has been confirmed as the new Head of Ofsted. This follows strong criticism of the appointment from the Education Select Committee.
In a statement to Parliament, the new Education Secretary has announced a delay to the long-awaited overhaul of school funding in England until at least 2018. The Department for Education had hoped to introduce a “fair funding” formula next year to replace the current system, which allows for wide variations between schools in some large cities and those elsewhere in terms of how much money is allocated per pupil. But in her statement, Justine Greening said that it would not be introduced until the 2018-19 school year to allow the DfE to form its response to a consultation held earlier this year and to conduct a second consultation after it publishes more details on how the formula will work. “There is also a strong sense in the response to the first stage of the consultation that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for an historic change and that we must get our approach right,” Greening told MPs. She committed to publishing the Government’s full response to the first stage of the schools and high needs consultations and set out the proposals for the second stage when Parliament returns in the autumn. The Guardian reports on it here and the BBC here.
The flurry of announcements issued by the Government ahead of Parliament rising for summer recess included a written statement by Jo Johnson, Universities and Science Minister, on higher education student finance (tuition fees to you and me). The statement, which confirmed that universities where the quality of teaching is deemed to be "high", in criteria set out the government's teaching excellence framework, will be able to raise fees above the current £9,000 cap, was met with criticism by many. The National Union of Students (NUS) said institutions thinking of raising fees would be ‘breaking consumer protection’ laws particularly as the increase could apply to students who have already started courses. Labour and the Lib Dems were similarly opposed. The Telegraph reports on it here and the BBC here.
The Higher Education and Research Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons – now being led by Justine Greening and the Department for Education (having started as a BIS piece of legislation). Opening the debate, the Education Secretary discussed the Government’s record on higher education, and argued that by removing the limit on student numbers, the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds attending university was at record levels. Funding changes ensured universities were “on a stable financial footing so that they are resourced for success”. The creation of an Office for Students (OfS), the principal regulator for higher education, would “put students’ interests at the heart of regulation”, she continued, explaining that the body would have a “legal duty requiring it to consider choice and the interests of students, employers and taxpayers, and it will look across higher education as a whole, with responsibility for monitoring financial stability, efficiency and the overall health of the sector”. The creation of a new body called UK Research and Innovation would “strengthen the strategic approach to future challenges, while maximising the value of the Government’s investment of more than £6 billion a year in research and innovation”, she argued. Responding for the Opposition, Shadow Higher Education, Further Education and Skills Minister Gordon Marsden said the recognition and identification of social mobility as a key factor in the expansion of higher education was “important”, and highlighted that Labour welcomed the promise at last of an alternative student finance method. Labour hoped that it would address the concerns of Muslim students about a lack of sharia-compliant funding. However, he argued that the Bill was “laced with an obsession for market-led ideology that does not reflect the realities in higher education or those of the post-Brexit world”. Labour welcomed the new teaching excellence framework (TEF), but was concerned by the “lack of detail on how it would work is added to by concerns that the Government are using the TEF as a potential Trojan horse for removing the fee cap”, he explained. Additionally, Labour was “strongly opposed to linking the TEF with fees”, Mr Marsden said, questioning the lack of parliamentary scrutiny it the new framework. The
Outgoing Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and the head of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) got into an argument on Twitter this week over the former’s record on libraries. Nick Poole, CEO of CILIP, tweeted to Ed, as messages of thanks were coming in, “OK Ed Vaizey, can’t resists - having been such a great arts/digital minister why did you struggle to champion or improve policy for libraries?” Ed swiftly responded saying of Poole that is was worrying that “you don’t understand how libraries work. You do know govt doesn’t fund them or run them?” The exchanges continued and were reported by The Bookseller here
Business Select Committee report into Digital Economy
The BIS Select Committee (Chaired by Ian Wright MP who also chairs the APPG on Publishing) has published the findings of its inquiry into the Digital Economy. The PA made a written submission to this inquiry and was also invited to give oral evidence. The report celebrates our digital economy, but stresses the necessity for the Government to establish its digital strategy, particularly in light of our withdrawal from the EU. Read a summary here. Of interest to publishers it notes that:
- Intellectual Property is increasingly important to the economic success of the UK, and while it can be hard to manage in a digital context the IP regime in the UK is flexible enough to withstand technological and digital challenges. Importantly it stresses that the current regime strikes the appropriate balance between the rights of the creator and the consumer, and further change in this area would not be helpful at the moment.
- The work of the Police IP Crime Unit undertakes important enforcement work in stopping people breaking the law and preventing creative industries from having their rights infringed. Not only does it recommend that funding should be available beyond 2017 but that the Government replicates the work of the IP Crime Unit in other parts of the country, and provides the necessary resources to support this.
- The decision to leave the European Union risks undermining the United Kingdom’s dominance in this policy area. The Committee believes that the UK could have led on the Digital Single Market, but instead will be having to follow. It calls on the Government to address this situation, to stop investor confident further draining away, with firms relocating into other countries in Europe to take advantage of the Digital Single Market.
- In broader terms, it recommends that the Government sets out in its digital strategy the implications of withdrawal from the European Union, in reference to specific, current EU negotiations relating to the digital economy.
Parliamentary ICT forum (Pictfor) panel discussion on the impact of Brexit upon the tech sector and implications for the digital single market
Pictfor held its summer reception last week and took the opportunity to hold a topical panel on the impact of Brexit on the tech sector. Chi Onwurah MP (Lab, Newcastle upon Tyne Central) noted how 70 to 90 per cent of the tech sector had voted to remain and how there was still a long way to go before the full implications of leaving the EU for the tech sector and the digital single market were known. She said key issues such as data sharing, audio-visual regulations and privacy needed to be addressed, but the Digital Economy Bill would go some way to alieving this.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe, sought to bring an optimistic tone to the proceedings and praised the strong and cordial relationship the UK had with the European Union which had allowed the country to have a large influence in EU legislation impacting the tech sector. For example, she noted how the House of Lords inquiry on digital platforms had been praised and appreciated in Brussels. Recognising there would be many questions about the future of the sector in light of Brexit, she stressed the "UK remains open for business". Addressing the Government’s digital strategy directly, she said that key factors included would be:
· Championing digital business and enterprise
· Continuing work to create the most digital economy in the world
· Realising the benefits of a digital society
· Ensuring world class digital infrastructure and skills
Other speakers included Lesley Smith, Director of Public Policy at Amazon who stressed the importance of the digital single market. It had, she commented, allowed small businesses to very successfully sell into the EU, she said. Although for the time being Amazon would be operating 'business as usual', she emphasised the company would continue to work with EU lobby group and member state governments to ensure the UK could find a way to remain a part of the digital single market. Vicky Ford MEP was also present. Vicky currently chairs the European Parliament’s IMCO Committee (Internal Market and Consumer Protection) and told the audience that digital had been a prominent part of discourse surrounding Brexit, and member states were now considering the impact Britain leaving the union would have upon their own countries. At the end of her address, she told the audience the digital single market would undoubtedly look different without the UK in the driving seat. The EU would become more protectionist, she added.
This week we have:
Discussed joint activity and campaigns with the Booksellers Association; met with the BBC Fair Trading Team to discuss how they undertook their market impact assessment in relation to the BBC Bitesize App; got an update from Jisc on the many services they are operating of relevance to publishers; discussed the implications for publishers of the repeal of Section 52 with DACS; met with the Read On Get On coalition; attended the second Borough Book Bash!
Next week we will be: Participating in Alliance for IP working groups on copyright, events and contact programmes and research; catching up with FEP and other PA’s on the Commission’s copyright reform package; meeting with the National Literacy Forum.